What can schools do about radicalisation?

What can schools do about radicalisation?

Posted on Nov 19, 2015

What can schools do about radicalisation?


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  • What radicalisation is and what causes it
  • The obligations placed on schools and early years childcare providers by the Prevent Duty
  • Understanding what is meant by fundamental British values



Defining some of the key terms

What is extremism?

Extremism is the vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. We also include in our definition of extremism calls for the death of members of our armed forces.


What is radicalisation?

Radicalisation is the process of causing someone to become a supporter of terrorism, or forms of extremism that lead to terrorism.


What causes radicalisation?




How does this relate to schools?

From 1 July 2015 all schools, registered early years childcare providers and registered later years childcare providers are subject to a duty under the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 to have “due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism. Being drawn into terrorism includes not just violent extremism but also non-violent extremism, which can create an atmosphere conducive to terrorism and can popularise views which terrorists exploit.” This duty is known as the Prevent duty.


This duty has subsequently been reflected within the revised Common Inspection Framework by Ofsted, which makes specific reference to the need to have safeguarding arrangements to protect children from the risk of radicalisation. 

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What obligations does the Prevent Duty place on schools?

Staff need to be able to recognise those who may be vulnerable to radicalisation and know what to do when they are identified. Protecting children should be part of wider safeguarding duties and is similar in nature to protecting children from other harms such as drugs, gangs or sexual exploitation. Schools need to build pupils’ resilience to radicalisation by promoting fundamental British values and enabling them to challenge extremist views.

There is nothing about the Prevent Duty that is intended to stifle debate over controversial issues. Rather, schools should provide a safe environment where children and young people can understand the risks associated with terrorism and develop the skills to be able to challenge extremist arguments.


Working in partnership – as an extension of existing local networks but also extends to parents and families. Some areas might have an appointed Prevent Coordinator to oversee this partnership working.

Staff training – to equip staff in being aware of, and confident in, identifying when a child might be being radicalised, and in challenging extremism ideas.

IT policies - ensure adequate filtering on their IT systems and be aware how social media is being used.

Risk assessment – general understanding of the risks within the local area as well as specific understanding of how children become susceptible to radicalisation in general. School staff should use their professional judgement for identifying individuals who may be at risk and this may include even very young children being at risk.


What makes the Prevent Duty challenging for schools to implement?


“These are new kinds of conversations that we’re not used to having”


As Marie, an experienced headteacher, points out. Before teachers can confidently handle these conversations, there has to necessary learning by them on what is ‘right’ and what are the ‘right’ ways to handle this. What makes this more challenging is that the extremism is fast-paced and ever-changing and, as such, it can feel as if you’re constantly playing catch-up with guidance and what’s happening.


Ensuring children can’t access extremist material when using the internet in school


There are 2 key difficulties in tackling this:


  • Having the technical expertise to monitor (or block?) content that is deemed as inappropriate
  • Staying up-to-date with the way in which ISIS are using social media to radicalise young people.

The need to block inappropriate content but similarly this needs to be balanced against the need to promote and allow debate of controversial issues so that extremist ideas can be tackled.


Where to draw the line between debating, and supporting, extremism


The Guardian raises this example. One was a discussion about whether the staff of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, where Islamists killed 12 people in January, “had it coming to them” over which there was a debate amongst headteachers over whether this was exploratory or extreme.

This decision is subjective: the challenge is ensuring that the decision is made knowledgeably and confidently.


Safeguarding children from extremism versus Islamophobia


It’s been well-established that safeguarding children can never be considered to be Islamophobia, nonetheless, this fear exists, which is potentially borne out of fear and/or a lack of knowledge.


The requirement to promote fundamental British values

What are the fundamental British values?


There are currently 4 values:

  1. Democracy
  2. Rule of law
  3. Individual liberty
  4. Mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.

There has been, and continues to be, a large amount of debate of what does actually constitute “fundamental British values”.

Some commentators are less than complimentary:



But equally, there seems to be a number of schools embracing the idea that promoting British values is more than simply putting up posters that display the 4 values. Children and teachers have brought the debate alive with a variety of activities.



Displaying posters may be only the tip of the iceberg but since we’ve seen people charging for these online, we thought we’d create some free posters for you to download here. If you’ve made some of your own in your school, tweet us with some examples of your own posters. It’d be great to see what the values mean in your school. We’ll be coming back to the topic of fundamental British values next week to explore it in greater detail. If you’re interested, stop by again next week or comment below with any thoughts we could include in the blog.


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